San Diego has plenty to occupy visitors and residents, particularly if you live in a vibrant area like the Little Italy neighborhood.
But it’s also perfectly situated for short getaways from San Diego, with so many day and weekend trips within just a few hour’s drive of the city. Check out 10 of the best weekend trips from San Diego that offer everything from outdoor adventures to more of the culinary kind, all with easy access from San Diego.
Joshua Tree National Park
A visit to Joshua Tree National Park is otherworldly. It’s the perfect place for getting up and close and personal with the park’s namesake, the twisty trees that fill the desert landscape.
At just under three hours, Joshua Tree is best experienced on an overnight visit. That way, you’re able to get some hikes in to see the park’s unique rock formations, some just begging you to climb them. Whether you’re a camper or are looking for more traditional accommodations in nearby towns like Twentynine Palms there’s accommodation available to fit every style and budget.
Those looking to explore the desert in more luxe fashion should consider Palm Springs. This is a weekend getaway destination that’s popular for relaxation over adventure and just over a two hour’s drive away from San Diego.
Visitors who like their spa time with a side of scenic views can do so at the Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness area, easily reached by the aerial tram in town. At the top, you’ll have access to hiking trails, too, but the view alone is worth the added trip.
There are lots of reasons that Julian tops locals’ favorite day trips from San Diego. It’s family-friendly, is a scenic mountain town with all kinds of hiking in the surrounding region, and it boasts historical significance as a town important to the Gold Rush.
But there’s also the pie. Locals travel the hour or so each autumn not only to see the fall colors, but to sample the town’s signature apple pies. The most well-known variety is the Julian Pie Company, but visitors should decide for themselves and have a pie crawl to determine their favorite tastes. Then, head the short drive home happy and full for a restful night’s sleep in your own bed.
The traffic from San Diego to Los Angeles may make for a long day trip to the City of Angels, as it’ll take you at least two-and-half hours to get there no matter what time you leave. But Los Angeles is a great weekend trip option for those looking for some of the best food in Southern California.
The tourist routes are worth it if you’ve never been. There’s just something special about visiting Hollywood and the city’s iconic beaches, like Santa Monica and Malibu. But the really good stuff is off-the-beaten path. If you have the time, explore the city’s ethnic food scene in Little Tokyo, Koreatown, and Little Armenia. Your taste buds will thank you!
Rosarito & Puerto Nuevo
A trip into Baja California is the perfect day trip from San Diego, especially when it means access to budget-friendly fresh lobster.
As you drive over the border into Mexico past Tijuana, you’ll reach Rosarito first. It’s a beach town with beach vibes, great for a quick stop to get your feet wet or lounge in the sand if you have more time. Further south, you’ll reach Puerto Nuevo. This is your lobster stop.
Find a local eatery that has a good crowd going, as that’s usually a good indicator that the seafood is freshly-caught. No matter where you go, you’ll likely be overlooking the ocean. You’ll be hard-pressed to find seafood with better scenery at these prices in San Diego.
Idyllwild is ideal for weekend getaways where the goal is to unplug and connect with nature. There are over 50 trails in and around the community that will allow you to explore the forests and the San Jacinto Mountains, at all levels.
Once you’re done and have worked up an appetite, you have the opportunity to enjoy the small town vibes you may be missing in San Diego. Businesses here are all locally-owned, and many of the restaurants use fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Just under two hours away, the community of Borrego Springs embraces its desert surroundings more than any other place this close to the city. Surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the outdoor recreation activities are plentiful, with hikes to palm-filled oases that only get more stunning during the spring when the wildflowers carpet the desert floor.
While you’re out there, you’ll likely run into the metal sculptures that make this area all the more interesting; the serpents, dinosaurs and stallions seem to come out of nowhere.
This doesn’t mean you won’t find high-end amenities here; the resorts in town are world-class, if you’re looking for some pampering. But if you’re there for an overnight, don’t miss out on the stargazing, as that’s phenomenal, as well.
A weekend trip up to Northern California for the world-famous wine regions of Napa Valley and Sonoma sounds awesome, but you’d likely have to fly there.
San Diegans are lucky enough to have a wine region right here in Southern California in Temecula, with a range of tasting menus and up-and-coming vintners specializing in bold reds. Spend some time finding your favorites, but don’t miss out on the other local delights. Temecula is also known for its local olive oils, perfect with some fresh bread from markets near the Old Town square.
North of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is another popular weekend getaway for San Diegans who want boutique shopping, wellness experiences, and delicious food, all with the beautiful backdrop of Spanish colonial architecture and the coast.
The city also offers their famous urban wine trail, blocks of wine-tasting potential across 20 different wineries that you can experience all on your feet. You’ll want to start in the Funk Zone, the city’s center for the unique wine, dining and culture that helps make Santa Barbara so special.
The Channel Islands
The Channel Islands are a diverse blend of marine life, national parks, and resorts, offering something for everyone who wants to venture off the shore.
Most locals who visit the islands are headed to Santa Catalina Island, often just referred to as Catalina. This is the most developed option. It’s home to Avalon, a community of resorts, boating opportunities, and golf carts as your transportation option. You have several options to ferry from to get to Catalina; popular options are Long Beach and Dana Point.
If you’re after something more rugged, the options within Channel Islands National Park – Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara, and San Miguel – offer more opportunity to get away from it all, and see wildlife you won’t spot on back on the mainland. You’ll need to catch a ferry from shore to visit any of these islands; Ventura and Oxnard offer the most options.
There are so many places to explore just outside of San Diego’s borders, and these kinds of trips are only made easier if your home base is already here in San Diego. Contact us for more on that San Diego lifestyle, and how you can make it happen!